Every nerd needs his or her shopping mall. For those geeks lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, that mecca has always been Fry's Electronics -- a chain of kitschy warehouses the size of football fields that sell everything from computer memory to Smart Food. Part social scene and part shopping bonanza, Fry's is also the place to head for long lines, horrific parking problems and, in Silicon Valley, traffic jams just to get there.
But these days, deskbound geeks can avoid all this with their own online option: ThinkGeek, a shopping site for the computer lifestyle. Although short on computer parts, ThinkGeek aspires to be the first stop for buying your most beloved programmer a present, desktop doodad or the appropriate geek chic attire. Browsing the catalog is like a birds-eye view into the needs and loves of the "various denizens of the Net/night" (as the site puts it).
What you'll find: a pair of $489 I-glasses, which let you watch TV through a hands-free headset; photon lights for annoying your co-workers; and (for real Napster-loving geeks) the Personal Jukebox, which stores over 100 hours of MP3s. Pick up your favorite Nerf toys, titanium Palm cases and the C.H.I.M.P. early warning system -- a rearview mirror for your desk "that will clue you in on when to Alt-Tab back to your spreadsheet when your boss suddenly appears."
This being a nerd's shopping site, there are, of course, 20 different varieties of caffeine on sale, from energy mints to that geek staple, Jolt Cola. And to make sure that you don't have to program naked, T-shirts galore, including the Alan Cox, Geek God T-shirt and polo shirts with the logos of your favorite Linux software. Not to mention a library of books that no Slashdot regular should be without, and a series of DeMotivational posters featuring scenic vistas with nasty slogans like "DESPAIR: It's Always Darkest just Before it goes Pitch Black."
The four founders of the site -- who had worked at an ISP together in Virginia -- believe firmly in open-source principles, and are even donating some of their proceeds to OpenSource.org. In a culture that looks suspiciously at corporate shenanigans and loves to mock bad e-commerce ideas, that's a guarantee of some kind of cred. Too bad they can't sell pizza, too.